On January 28, 2015, a group of private citizens who were prevented from protesting, circulating petitions, and handing out political fliers in Downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius Park filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued Detroit 300 ...
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On January 28, 2015, a group of private citizens who were prevented from protesting, circulating petitions, and handing out political fliers in Downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius Park filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued Detroit 300 Conservancy, the private company managing the public park; Guardsmark, the company hired to provide park security; and a Detroit City Police officer, under § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by ACLU of Michigan, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that defendants’ attempts to prevent political protests in the public park violated their First Amendment rights to free speech.
On April 8, 2015, the city of Detroit agreed that it was a First Amendment issue and promulgated interim rules that would allow for people to exercise their free speech rights in city parks. Plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint, which acknowledged the new interim rules and withdraw the initial request for a preliminary injunction. However, the amended complaint stated that since the interim rules were merely temporary and could be rescinded at any moment, the plaintiffs still required a permanent solution.
The defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On July 22, 2015, Judge Bernard Friedman agreed with the plaintiffs and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. He ruled that because the plaintiff’s complaint had been amended after the motion to dismiss, the motion was moot; additionally, the rules were only temporary, and the complaint still contained a cause of action for which the plaintiffs could receive relief.
On October 14, 2015, the case was moved before a Magistrate Judge and the parties ordered to conduct settlement conferences. The defendant then informed the court that the city of Detroit had planned some new ordinances that would address most of the relief that the plaintiffs sought in their complaint. On October 15, 2015, the court stayed the proceedings until a settlement conference could be had on or after November 24, 2015.
The parties conducted their settlement conference on December 1, 2015. They came to an agreement and settled on January 16, 2016, contingent on the approval of Detroit City Council. The Detroit City Council issued its ordinance. The ordinance rules include the acknowledgement that leafleting and demonstrations are exercises of First Amendment rights; that demonstrations of 45 or fewer people can be held in the park without a permit; that if an activist shows that they cannot afford the permit fees, the fees can be waived. At Campus Martius Park, only demonstrations of 25 or fewer people will be allowed to protest without a permit, and activists cannot use any structure or businesses inside the park for leafleting or demonstration purposes. The city also agreed to train its officers and agents in these rules, as well as requiring the park’s private management company to also train its agents in proper implementation and enforcement of those rules.
As of February 16, 2016, this case was closed. Kat Brausch - 08/05/2016
Virginia Weeks - 10/23/2016